BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – The Bluefield Baseball Club now has a new name to accompany its newly formatted league in hopes of attracting the community.
Tuesday, the club announced a name change to the Bluefield Ridge Runners, reflecting the rich railroading history of the Bluefield area. The team had been called the Bluefield Blue Jays since 2011, but lost its affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball during the offseason during a transition to the Appalachian League.
The Summer Woodbat League is made up of 10 teams sponsored by USA Baseball and powered by MLB. Players in the league will be 320 non-draft eligible college, freshman and sophomores currently in the player development pipeline.
Rocky Malamisura, General Manager of Bluefield, told the media Tuesday that the team can market and score things differently due to greater independence. He expects the merchandise to be available for sale in about six weeks.
“It will be a little different from what we have been able to do in the past. We were locked into one logo, one hat, one t-shirt. Now we have a bit more flexibility,” Malamisura said.
The Ridge Runners were one of more than 125 names submitted by fans and sponsors. Malamisura said after an exhaustive due diligence effort, the list was narrowed down to five contenders. The final decision was made after all legal hurdles were cleared and the logo artwork was approved.
Malamisura noted that the club’s legal hurdles consisted of endorsing a private entity that also used the Ridge Runners name.
This is the second time in more than nine decades of baseball at Bluefield that the team’s name has not been determined by its parent club. Other names included the Bluefield Blue Jays (2011–2020), Bluefield Orioles (1958–2010), Bluefield Dodgers (1957), and Bluefield Blue-Grays (1937–1942, 1946–1955).
A team press release mentioned that the original Ridge Runner train in 1964 made a one-mile loop atop East River Mountain, half in Virginia and half in West Virginia. It straddles Bowen Field in Peters Park and now resides just outside Bowen Field’s right field wall.
Malamisura hopes the community will support the team. He said the club first heard it was in danger of losing baseball in October 2019. The new league, which will consist of a 54-game batting season from June to August with an All-Star Game and playoffs, was announced in September 2020.
“I have to sell the wall sign, sell the sponsorships, advertise in the programs. I have to finish our sponsored ballpark nights,” Malamisura said of the next steps.
Princeton also has a club in the Appalachian League, but it’s one of two clubs in the league that has yet to announce its rebrand.
Baseball’s future in Charleston with the West Virginia Power remains in limbo, as no league announcements were made following the announcement of the loss of MLB affiliation.
— Bluefield Ridge Runners (@goridgerunners) February 16, 2021